My first memories of Block Island took place around 1950, when we lived with my Grandma Sheffield on what was once a farm on top of Pilot Hill. My mom was born on Block Island.
I have been a professional mariner most of my life; my career has included operating a ferry for several years for Interstate Navigation, serving Block Island.
Although my career forced me away from Block Island some years ago, my job has also brought me back there periodically. To me, it seems like I never get to spend enough time on Block Island.
I’ve just read the Navigational Risk Assessment on the Block Island Wind Farm’s site. I concentrated on this section of the proposal because it’s the only aspect of the project where I feel I could consider my opinion to be on a professional level.
This report cannot comb over some obvious facts, for example that the location for their wind farm is right smack in the middle of one of the most traveled marine waterway junctions in New England, the approaches to Long Island and Block Island Sound, and is also very close to the shipping lanes of the very large vessels transiting into Narragansett Bay. This fact is brushed aside by the windfarm folks, stating that everyone uses a GPS now and should know where they are at all times in restricted visibility. This is definitely not the case.
The report also brushes aside the fact that while the windfarm’s location will obscure some of the Southeast Light’s navigational capabilities, it will make up for it by becoming a navigational aid itself. This can be construed from two different aspects, the other point of view being that in a cruising area that was once unobstructed, there would now be a literal minefield of navigational hazards that can go bump in the night, or even during the day in one of the world’s densest fogs that only Block Island is capable of creating.
While a collision with a small pleasure boat with one of these behemoths would have almost no direct economic effect on the island, except for maybe making a few bucks for whoever does the salvage, have any of the perennial Block Island families really considered the consequences of the potential damage that would be incurred if one of these windmills met up with a very large oil tanker and blackened Block Island’s shores with crude oil that would not dissipate for generations? Case in point, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The sand is still emitting oil wherever you put your foot down along the shores of Prince William Sound.
Because I’m no longer a permanent resident of Block Island, I can only wonder: Do any of the island’s non boating residents realize that the lowest point of one of those swirling windmill blades could, by the project’s own admission, be as low as 71 feet off the water? Do they realize how many sailboat masts out there now are at least that high off the water? Many of the larger sailboats now boast masts in excess of 100 feet. Talk about adding new obstacles to the course during Block Island Race Week.
Although there are several other aspects of the project brushed over in their statements, I won’t drone on about them here. I’m very sad, though, to see the place where I spent several years growing up being, what almost seems to me, crooned into creating what could possibly be the proverbial ship wreck.
I watched for several years, while staging my boat out of Cape Cod, how the residents there fought tooth and nail to prevent the very same thing from taking place in Nantucket Sound. They have so far succeeded. What concerns me here is that I don’t see that same fervor for objection to this Block Island Project.
The NASA Windmill Project that we were subjected to several years ago, if nothing else, proved to me, anyway, that while they promise something for nothing, windmills can also be a maintenance nightmare, and I would imagine in this case even more so now that they’ll be squatting in salt water.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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